Season of Creation: Week Four

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary
Exodus 16:2-15
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16
Catholic lectionary:
Isaiah 55:6-9
145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

Food Insecurity


The theme for Season of Creation 2023 is “Let justice and peace flow like a river”. One of the areas of great injustice in our world is the global food crisis. It is estimated that 345 million people around the world are food insure, yet 17% of all food produced is dumped between harvest and retail. Agriculture has a large footprint both on the landscape, through monocropping, which often leads to habitat destruction, as well as the impact of factory-style animal husbandry on increased greenhouse gasses. Our modern food production practices are leading to increasing biodiversity loss, the alienation of people from food sources and at the same time increasing global hunger. The impact of climate change and war have also driven people off the land and have made more people food insecure.

The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ – Exodus 16:3



Exodus 16:2-15 Grumbling in the desert

This passage  tells us of God’s provision of food in the desert to the wandering  Israelites after their grumbling to Moses and Aaron. In today’s scripture readings we hear the cry of the hungry, as the Israelites travel through the desert. They are hungry and have no means of satisfying their hunger, as a result they grumble against Moses and Aaron and say that they were better off as slaves in Egypt, because at least there they were fed. God responds by sending them manna and quail from heaven, reminding them that God has a plan and taking them to the promised land and also ensuring that while they wait their immediate needs are being met.

The Israelites were journeying from their period of slavery to the promised land and the time in the desert represents the period of purification and waiting. As desert wanderers they were unable to provide for themselves since they were unable to farm or hunt given that they were a people on the move, thus they were completely dependent on God to provide for their every need. God thus  “rained down bread from heaven” (v. 4) for them, “thin flakes like frost” (v. 13). This substance was different compared to the food that they were used to, that they asked “what is it?” (v.15). The story also tells of the glory of God in the presence of the Israelites and that after they beheld this glory, God promised to provide them with meat and “that evening quail came and covered the camp” (v. 13). Moses and Aaron reminded the Israelites that God provided enough for everyone, and that each person was only to take as much as they needed.

Psalm 105: 1-6; 37-45 God provides in the desert

They asked, and he brought them quail;

    he fed them well with the bread of heaven.

 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;

    it flowed like a river in the desert. (40-41)

Psalm 105 tells the story of the salvific history of God amongst the Israelites. It is always interesting to see how the Psalms put a different spin to the Old Testament reading, in this ‘spin’ gone are the complaints and grumblings – the people ask and God provides. God is not only Creator but also Sustainer, providing for their needs from Creation.  But this Psalm is also a celebration of God’s solidarity with the oppressed – the mighty are fallen and the oppressed lifted high. In the face of Climate Change, how can we raise up the voices of the smaller, front-line nations who are bearing the brunt of climate impacts? How can we stand in solidarity with them and proclaim in the words of  Fr Gustavo Gutierrez,  ‘God’s preferential option for the poor”

Philippians 1:21-30 Acting in accordance with our faith

Acts 16 tells us that Philippi was the leading City of Macedonia in the Roman empire. This was also where Paul was imprisoned after driving a demon out of a young woman who was used for spiritual divination. For this he and his companion, Silas, were beaten and imprisoned, since freeing a slave was seen to be disrupting the status quo.  While writing his letter, Paul is again in prison and uses the image of the prisoner to convey his message to the Philippians. He seems to be going through a proverbial ‘dark night of the soul’, acknowledging the hardships he is undergoing and that it might be easier to let go and be with Christ.  But he encourages his readers, reminding  them  that his conduct as a prisoner has led to many in the temple courts accepting the Gospel and becoming believers. Paul therefore encourages the believers in Philippi to act in ways that are consistent with the Gospel. At the same time he assures them that it is their ongoing ministry and their faithfulness that motivates him to the keep the faith.

In the face of a global food crisis we have to ask whether we are acting in accordance with our beliefs. If we believe in a God that provides for all His children and for the whole of creation, how do we ensure that the benefits of God’s provision reach everyone, everywhere? How do we ensure that we reduce our own food waste and also advocate for ethical farming practices?  Our united voices as Christians can still bring about freedom and justice. As Christian Aid says, “We believe in life before death”

Matthew 20:1-16 The farm labourers’ tale

Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a landowner who at different times of the day brings workers into the vineyard for the harvest. Jesus uses the narrative to illustrate that God, through Christ, is opening the kingdom of heaven to all, even those not previously thought of as part of the kingdom. In this text we see the emotive nature both of the narrative and the lesson, that there is a perceived injustice in the workers earning the same amount of money, even though they had not all worked the same amount of hours. In the kingdom of God all receive the same salvation, based on God’s grace and not the number of hours worked or the length of time we given in the service of our Lord.

This narrative remains emotive as it tells the story of injustice in some agrarian societies, highlighting the marginalisation of seasonal workers, the land tenure rights of workers and income inequality. 

There are many ethical dilemmas associated with our food production systems:

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that more than 345 million people globally face high levels of food insecurity, more than double the 2020 amount. One of the biggest drivers of hunger is conflict. WFP estimate that 70% of hungry people live in areas of conflict and many have been driven off the land through conflict and the impacts of climate change.

Our food production systems today are also heavily influenced by private entities pursuing profits through the sale of Genetically Modified seeds. It is well documented that these seeds, and the herbicide they are associated with, are harmful to the soil and the organisms that live in the soil. The unjust practices associated with GM seeds have also led to farmers being driven off their land through unethical business practices and land grabs in the name of food production.

These are just two examples that show how our modern farming practices have deepened the alienation of people from the land. Add to this urbanization, food dumping and global supply chains and we have to acknowledge the reality that we are no longer connected to where our food comes from, nor can we control the quality of what we are eating or who has access to what is being produced.


When we celebrate the Eucharist, do we know where the bread and wine comes from? Do we know under what conditions the labourers live and work? Do we know the land management practices of the farmer? How could we, as the church, have a better say in food production practices and the need to ensure that all God’s people are fed?



World Food Programme –

Food Tank –

Book: “Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation by William” F. Engdahl

TEDxMasala – Dr Vandana Shiva – Solutions to the food and ecological crisis facing us today.

Theology of Food: 4 Themes From Scripture

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Rev. Shaun Cozett

Rev Shaun Cozett is the Rector of St Paul’s Bree Street in the Diocese of Cape Town. Shaun holds an undergraduate degree  in Environmental and Geographical Science and is undertaking postgraduate studies with the Environmental Humanities South Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. Shaun is a founder member of the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute where he continues to serve as a board member and also serves as a board member of the College of the Transfiguration, the residential seminary of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

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